Month: June 2016

Harris County Commercial Property Damage

Harris County Commercial Property Damage Lawsuit

Our client, a local commercial office buildings owner, was forced to file a lawsuit against Mesa Underwriters Specialty Insurance Company (Mesa) for grossly underestimating property damage claims caused by a wind and hailstorm and denying proper payment under the Texas Insurance Code.

April 2015 Wind and Hail Storm

On April 19, 2015, a severe wind and hail storm swept through Harris County. As a result, our client’s properties sustained extensive damage to the roof, HVAC, exteriors, and interiors of the properties. Immediately upon discovering the damages, the plaintiff filed an insurance claim.

In response to the claim, Mesa assigned representative, adjusters, consultants, and agents to the plaintiff’s files that were inadequately and improperly trained to investigate this type of damage. Specifically, Mesa assigned the claim to an internal adjuster who in turn assigned an additional adjuster to assess the damage.

Both adjusters failed to perform thorough investigations of the damages. Additionally, they failed to provide any estimate or scope of damages to the plaintiffs, and instead delayed the resolution of the claim.

As a result of haphazard inspections, misrepresentations, and inadequate investigations, Mesa wrongfully denied payment of the claim and failed to provide notice of the denial despite repeated requests.

Violations of the Texas Insurance Code

Mesa wrongfully denied our client’s commercial property insurance claim. Because of this, our client was forced to retain an attorney to prosecute its claim for insurance benefits. The insurance carrier’s denial of payment for necessary and covered repairs under the policy caused additional damages to the interior and significant economic impact.

Our client cites numerous violations of the Texas Insurance Code including failure to effectuate a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of a claim, failure to implement reasonable standards for investigation of a claim, and refusal to pay a claim without conducting a reasonable investigation.

Houston Wind and Hail Damage Attorneys

If your commercial insurance carrier has denied, delayed, or disputed your wind and hail damage insurance claim, the experienced Houston litigation attorneys at Raizner Slania can help. We’ve helped scores of policyholders get the rightful compensation they deserve under their policies. Call us today for a free consultation.

ivc filter symptoms

IVC Filter Symptoms FAQ

What Is An Inferior Vena Cava Filter?

The inferior vena cava filter (IVC filter) is an umbrella-shaped medical device with legs intended to prevent blood clots from migrating from the lower ranges of the body to the heart or lungs. IVC filters are inserted into the largest vein in the body, the inferior vena cava, where the legs of the device attach themselves into the walls of the inferior vena cava via small hooks on the end of each leg. The umbrella portion of the device then “catches” any blood clot and prevents it from traveling to the heart or lungs.

Who Receives IVC Filters?

IVC filters are designed for patients who are unable to take blood thinners to reduce the threat of blood clots. This includes patients who have sustained extreme trauma like puncture wounds or patients who have undergone surgery.

What Are Side Effects of Receiving an IVC Filter?

Some of the most common side effects of an IVC filter include bleeding, fever or chills, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. If you experience one or more of these symptoms after having an IVC filter implanted, immediately seek medical attention.

What Happens When An IVC Filter Fractures?

Some IVC filters are now known to have an increased risk of fracturing while in the body. As an IVC filter remains in the body, it can be slowly worn down, causing the device to fracture. IVC filter fracture can be life threatening for the patient if the fractured pieces travel through the body.

What Is An IVC Filter Embolization?

When an IVC filter fractures, the broken pieces can sometimes travel through the blood stream, called embolization, and puncture internal organs like the heart or lungs. When this occurs, it can cause permanent damage and removal of the fractured pieces may be impossible.

Can An IVC Filter Move Throughout the Body?

While IVC filters are intended to be stationary inside the body, they can sometimes become detached and migrate through the body. The device’s migration can cause it to get attached to other organs and it may not be possible to remove once this occurs.

Do IVC Filters Damage the Inferior Vena Cava Walls?

IVC filters are designed to only attach themselves to the outer layers of the inferior vena cava wall; however, some IVC filters completely puncture the inferior vena cava wall, which can cause internal bleeding in addition to other serious side effects.

What Are Complications That Can Occur After An IVC Filter Fails?

When an IVC filter fails, it can cause permanent and life threatening injuries. A failed IVC filter can cause internal bleeding, chronic chest pain, hemorrhaging, lacerations in the heart, deep vein thrombosis, permanent damage to critical organs, and even death. For many patients who suffer from a failed IVC filter, removal of the device requires open surgery, or may not be possible at all.

What Has The FDA Said About the Safety of IVC Filters?

In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that between 2005 and 2010, they received over 900 reports of device failure from IVC filters. The FDA recommended removing the device immediately after the threat of blood clots had passed. In 2014, the FDA updated their initial safety statement from 2010 to advise doctors to remove IVC filters between 29 and 54 days after insertion. The FDA also warned that the risks of device failure greatly increased the longer the IVC filter remained in the body.

Are There Any Alternatives To IVC Filters?

Some patients might be prescribed anticoagulants like Pradaxa and Xarelto that work to prevent the blood from clotting, thereby reducing the risk of blood clots traveling into the heart and lungs. However, these medications have been shown to cause their own set of complications.

IVC Filter Lawyers

If you or someone you know suffered serious complications or death after the implantation of an IVC filter, you may be eligible to receive compensation. Let the experienced medical device litigation attorneys at Raizner Slania evaluate your claim and fight for the compensation you deserve in an IVC filter lawsuit. Contact Raizner Slania today for a free and confidential consultation.

Vanderbilt University football

Class Action Complaint Filed Against the NCAA on Behalf of Vanderbilt University Football Players

In its mission statement, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) claims to both maintain and protect the health and well-being of all the student-athletes participating in NCAA governed institutions. However, the unfortunate reality is that many student-athletes competing on NCAA regulated teams sustain severe injuries that often lead to life-altering medical problems.

One recent case that highlights the NCAA’s culpability and disregard for player safety depicts the injuries endured by a football player that attended Vanderbilt University. This student-athlete played as an outside linebacker from 1999-2002. By the end of his career as a Vanderbilt football player, this athlete had suffered more than five concussions. Although the lead plaintiff was reported to have experienced concussion related symptoms, Vanderbilt ignored all evidence of Traumatic Brian Injury (TBI) and in turn, failed to adhere to the appropriate protocols required to mitigate the risks associated with head injuries. As a result of Vanderbilt’s conduct, this football player now sustains a variety of medical issues including memory loss, sensitivity to light, and sleeping disorders.

NCAA Head Injury Lawyers: Raizner Slania

The NCAA, its conferences, and universities have a responsibility to look after the health and safety of their student-athletes. Contact Raizner Slania today if you or a loved one have experienced head trauma and neurological disorders as a result of a head injury while playing for an NCAA regulated team.

Utah Football

Class Action Complaint Filed Against the NCAA on Behalf of the University of Utah Football Players

Raizner Slania has to date filed a total of ten class action complaints against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Each class action case, focusing on the culpability of the NCAA, addresses the association’s irresponsibility regarding the prevention and treatment of sports-related head injuries.

One recent case that emphasizes the NCAA’s failure to adhere to its commitment to uphold the health and safety of its student-athletes and depicts the injuries endured by football players that attended the University of Utah. The lead plaintiff played on the defensive line as a tight end from 1995-1999. Throughout his time on the Utah football team, the football player was repeatedly subjected to violent blows and head impacts. As a result, this Utah player suffered numerous concussions and severe head trauma.

NCAA Head Injury Lawyers: Raizner Slania

The NCAA, its conferences, and universities have a responsibility to look after the health and safety of their student-athletes. Contact Raizner Slania today if you or a loved one have experienced head trauma and neurological disorders as a result of a head injury while playing for an NCAA regulated team.

Arbitration Endorsements

Arbitration Endorsements – The Latest Insurance Industry Overreach

The insurance industry has yet another plan to seek various immunities and avoid public accountability in the form of a proposed arbitration endorsement. The Texas Department of Insurance will conduct a hearing on July 6, 2016 to consider the proposed endorsement.

What is the proposed arbitration endorsement?

Labeled Endorsement No. HO-802, the proposed form has some troubling provisions. Initially, the endorsement requires the parties to request and then participate in the appraisal process under the policy. If a dispute continues after appraisal, the parties must attend mediation. And if the dispute still remains unresolved after mediation, the policyholder and insurer must participate in arbitration.

How would the arbitration work?

The endorsement form requires there to be a single arbitrator. There’s no three person panel to provide a semblance of a level playing field. Instead, a group called Conflict Solutions of Texas appoints the single arbitrator and manages the process. You can read more about this group on their website, but a quick review shows a panel of attorneys, largely defense lawyers, and a few former judges. The group appears to have been started by several insurance defense lawyers with the Brin & Brin firm. The Brin firm is a long-standing, well respected firm in Texas, but let’s all be intellectually honest in what is being proposed. Mr. Brin’s bio on his website discloses his membership in various defense bar organizations, such as the Texas Association of Defense Counsel, the Defense Research Institute and the International Association of Defense Counsel. The firm boasts their successes throttling Texas consumers and policyholders on behalf of corporate defendants: “Our lawyers have secured defense verdicts in traditionally plaintiff friendly areas because we try cases in those areas on a regular basis. We know the people – both judges and jurors – and we know what works in each area.” Having practiced insurance law in Texas for about 25 years, I did not recognize one single panelist to be a policyholder lawyer. Not one.

To earn the right to participate in this process, a policyholder would have to travel to the closest city with a population of over 100,000. That’s fine if you live in Houston, Dallas or another larger city, but for rural policyholders, the enforcement of even a minor claim would involve a long road trip to a much larger city, and presumably one where the folks that run this arbitration “know the people.”

And if that doesn’t trigger your Spidey Sense, take an even closer look. Discovery is limited, and the insurer can refuse to produce parts of its files that it claims are privileged, with no way to address bogus privilege claims except to the single arbitrator. There are no depositions or other traditional discovery. There is no obligation to produce the critical, institutional documentation such as procedure and policy manuals that guide adjuster behavior.

The proposed endorsement even claims to be governed by the Federal Arbitration Act instead of the Texas version contained in chapter 171 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code. Why? Because the Texas version actually has some level of protection for consumers, such as the invalidation of unconscionable arbitration provisions. Or the right to cross-examination. Or depositions. Or the basic requirement that the proceeding take place in the adverse party’s home county. The Texas act requires both the party and its attorney to sign off on an arbitration agreement if there is more than $50,000 in controversy. So, the Federal Arbitration Act it is, even for Texas insurers disputing Texas claims with Texas policyholders.

Not surprisingly, the whole process is kept secret. And if you decline to participate in the process: “we will proceed without you, and an arbitration award will be made by the arbitrator.”

What’s the purpose of this, if there’s already an appraisal provision in the policy?

Anyone familiar with Texas insurance policies and first party property insurance claims knows that most insurance policies in this state contains an appraisal clause. The past few years of court decisions have also taught us that it is nearly impossible to waive these provisions, and that they will be enforced. The appraisal process has been around for a very long time, and while it sometimes doesn’t work out to everyone’s satisfaction, it’s a fair process when everyone is following the rules. It’s quite simple: both sides select an appraiser, and if a tiebreaker is needed, either the appraisers or a court can appoint an umpire. The majority wins. According to the Texas Supreme Court, complicated causation questions can be resolved as a part of this process.

When handled competently and fairly, an appraisal is a lot like a three person panel arbitration. Frankly, appraisal and arbitration are largely indistinguishable, beyond the customary practice that appraisals are typically handled by adjusting or construction experts rather than lawyers. Any insurance company or policyholder can enforce an appraisal provision, and can compel a reluctant opponent to participate. Appraisal awards are largely enforced, with exceptions arising typically only when someone breaks the rules.

Given the presence of an effective dispute resolution process in the form of contractual appraisal, the insurance industry’s effort to trump a three person, professional, contractual process with what amounts to a star chamber – presided over by an omnipotent defense lawyer – represents a deeply cynical overreach. It is a blatant effort to nullify the appraisal process, and rewrite it with a process entailing a single arbitrator selected by the insurance industry. There is no chance whatsoever that any insurance company would pay an adverse appraisal award, if they can simply have their arbitrator overrule it.

Is there a discount for accepting this arbitration endorsement?

This is where the insurance industry really thinks that Texas consumers are just plain stupid. Recent documents obtained from TDI show that the supposed discount the industry will offer is a complete sham. The proponent of the endorsement, Texas Farm Bureau, raised its rates in the targeted counties, mostly in South Texas. If you accept the endorsement, they’ll then lower your rates by the same amount they just raised them. You read that right. They jack rates up by 25%, then lower them by the same 25%, provided you consent to the single arbitrator process. So, you pay the same as you did before, except now you’ve given up any legal leverage you ever might have to secure a fair payment.

What’s next?

The Texas Department of Insurance will conduct a hearing on the proposed arbitration endorsement on July 6, 2016 at TDI’s offices in Austin. Stay tuned, but speak up if you care about your rights. You can send TDI an email opposing this gambit by clicking on this link from the Texas Watch website.

penn state university football

Class Action Complaint Filed Against the NCAA on Behalf of Penn State University Football Players

Penn State University has had no shortage of legal problems, and its athletic program is now the subject of a recent class action complaint asserting that the embattled university, along with the NCAA, failed to adequately protect student athletes from the dangers and lifetime consequences of concussions.

The recent class action complaint focuses on a lead plaintiff who played as a defensive back from 1988-1991. During one particular game in 1991, the player was hit while covering a kick off. This student-athlete sustained a dangerous concussion and experienced severe memory loss for two days following the incident. This football player then suffered another violent blow during running back practice. After colliding with a runner, the player reported that he had lost all feeling on the left side of his body from his arm upward.

As a result of enduring multiple blows, impacts to the head, and at least two concussions throughout his time on the Penn State football team, the player now suffers from a variety of medical issues and disorders including back problems, claustrophobia, depression, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, impulse control problems, irritability, memory loss, numbness and tingling, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts. 

NCAA Head Injury Lawyers: Raizner Slania

The NCAA, its conferences, and universities have a responsibility to look after the health and safety of their student-athletes. Contact Raizner Slania today if you or a loved one have experienced head trauma and neurological disorders as a result of a head injury while playing for an NCAA regulated team.